Robert Shepard, author and curriculum designer, has
prepared an essay exam for the corporate reformers who think they
know how to redesign American education.

He writes:

As a member of the Billionaire Boys’ Club, or as one of the paid associates
of the BBC, you . . .

1. believe that that
extraordinarily complex skills like reading and writing ability can
be validly and reliably measured by simple, objective

Explain how that could possibly be so.

Please draw upon your extensive knowledge of the relevant
scientific literature.

2. believe that innovation comes about when free persons conceive of varied goods
and services that compete with one another in a free market in
which users choose the goods and services that they wish to
purchase and use.

Explain how this belief can
be reconciled with a) a single set of mandatory national standards
for all students, b) a single set of mandatory high-stakes national
tests, c) a single national database of all student test scores and
responses, and d) scripted literacy lessons that all teachers must
follow to the letter.

3. believe that all
students should follow the same standards and take the same

Explain how this belief can be
reconciled with the fact that students differ enormously in their
backgrounds, in their developmental levels, in their gifts and
interests and propensities, and in the goals that they and their
parents have for their futures.

4. believe that national standards do not narrow and distort curricula and

Please answer the following questions:

If standards do not drive (and so narrow and distort)
curricula and pedagogy, why create them?

If they do drive curricula
and pedagogy, how can a single set of predetermined standards be
better than ANY alternative set that might be developed by ANY
OTHER expert or group of experts in education and particular
subject matter?

5. believe that our schools
are failing.

Explain how can this belief can
be reconciled with the fact that, when results on internationally
norm-referenced exams in reading, mathematics, and science are
corrected for the socio-economic levels of students taking the
exams, U.S. students consistently score at the top or very near the

6. believe that a small group of persons
appointed by a committee of politicians should be empowered to
create standards that overrule and render irrelevant the judgments
about desirable outcomes in particular courses of study made by
professional teachers, curriculum developers, and curriculum